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How to Take Your Side Hustle to the Next Level

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One of the defining characteristics of the Millennial generation is our penchant for having a side hustle—an estimated 35 percent of us have one. Whether your full-time job simply doesn’t feed your passion or you just hate the whole idea of a 9-to-5, odds are you’re either dabbling in something on the side or have thought about it.

I’m an “upper Millennial”—born in 1981—but I still have this gene. I’d wanted to be a corporate attorney my entire life, and that’s exactly what I became, but I was blogging on the side as a hobby. One day I realized I loved my hobby more than that six-figure law firm job I’d worked so hard to land.

[Related: 5 Ways a Side Hustle Can Advance Your Career]

The Key to Taking Your Side Hustle Full-Time

I started blogging about business and legal issues in sports (on a simple, free WordPress blog), but it wasn’t until I focused almost exclusively on the business of college sports that I cemented my place as an expert—and got offers from ESPN and for a book deal almost simultaneously.

Most of us start out wanting to be as broad as possible with our product or service. We want it to appeal to everyone.

Instead, it appeals to no one.

Think about how you search for information or products. You’re usually looking for something very specific to solve a problem or fill a need. Your ideal client or customer is doing the same.

[Related: 5 Models With Successful Side Hustles]

So, how do you find your niche? Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What solutions or answers does my service or product provide?
  • What are people searching online to find products and services like mine? (If you have a website, you can get this from your own analytics.)
  • What really lights me up when I work on it?

Get Your Head Straight

One of the biggest hurdles budding entrepreneurs have to overcome in order to be successful is their mindset. If you question your ability or expertise, your ideal client or customer will question it, too.

There will be days when you’ll think you’re wasting your time. There will be days your parents, significant other, friends, or coworkers will tell you that you can’t make a living with your side hustle. You’ll be afraid to invest in your business, you’ll be scared to put yourself out there, and you’ll be terrified of failure.

Every successful entrepreneur out there went through the same thing, and the only difference between them and the ones who failed is that they kept moving forward.

[Related: What’s a Side Hustle? And 5 Other Terms You Need to Know ASAP]

The most important thing you can do is surround yourself with other “high vibrational” people in similar situations. Check out Facebook groups dedicated to entrepreneurs and surround yourself with positive people who are amped about their own businesses, and you’ll become positive and amped about your business.

Start Building Your Brand

Having a “brand” is one of those things everyone talks about but few people actually understand, so let me make it simple:

  1. Choose a name for your business. Ideally, it will give people some idea of what you do. Otherwise, you’ll need a tagline that does the job.
  2. Get a URL with your business name. If your business name isn’t available, you’ll probably need to consider choosing a different name. You do not want to be driving traffic to someone else’s website because your audience can’t remember that you have a dash in the middle of your URL. Make it easy for people to remember you.
  3. Reserve social media accounts on every platform you can think of using your business name. Again, you want this to match your business name and URL. That’s all part of your brand; it’s tough to build a brand people remember when nothing matches. And reserve your name even on platforms you think you won’t use. There’s nothing worse than deciding a year from now you really want to be on Snapchat and finding someone squatting on your name.
  4. Get a logo and style guide. This is when you spend a little money (unless you’re a graphic designer). You don’t have to break the bank—there are amazingly talented designers on Etsy who will do this for you at a relatively low cost. You do, however, want a professionally-designed logo and a style guide with colors and fonts. You’ll use these for everything from your business cards to your website and social media channels.

Embrace Social Media

Once you have your visual brand identity, it’s time to start using social media to grow your brand.

[Related: The New Guard of Social Media]

Follow this rule: 80 percent of your content on social media should be educational or from third-party sources, 10 percent should be about your product or service, and 10 percent should be about you.

It’s that last part that my clients struggle with the most. But remember, people connect with people—not nameless, faceless companies. The more you share pieces of your story, the more opportunity people have to find some piece of their story that relates to yours.

Photo: Hero Images / Getty Images

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Join the conversation:

Thanks for the article. I'm working on building the side hustle in an attempt to grow it into my business/career. I know I've got my work cut out for me (especially with 1 f/t and 1 p/t job already), but it's the thing that I'm willing to put in the extra miles day after day for!

Great article on how to manage your #sidehustle

Love this, thanks Kristi - and SO relevant, as my biz partner and I are launching our side hustle this week...and we were talking about exactly that - the 'impostor' effect and how easily you can doubt yourself which ultimately sets you back.

Thanks!


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